Hey, cool, everyone’s chiming in with op-eds on THE FUTURE OF HEALTH CARE IN AMERICA. Now libertarian/Randian Whole Foods founder John Mackey is coming up with ideas in the pages of the perpetually unhinged Wall Street Journal op-ed section. (Whenever I try to picture Mackey, I can’t help but think of Tom Cruise’s “respect the cock” character in Magnolia — which is my own cross to bear. Wait, wtf? I just realized that character’s name is “Frank Mackey.” I need a drink.) And of course, he attacks Canada.
So, Mackey’s long been known for his Southwestern libertarian streak (which translates into a pretty classic American robber baron disdain for unions), so it makes sense that he sees personal responsibility as a core problem in the health crisis, specifically in terms of obesity. Now, I share Mackey’s dismay at the average American’s diet and exercise habits, but I’m not comfortable telling the single mother of three working two and a half jobs that she needs to do better on the arugula/family bike trips front. (BECAUSE TEH MARKET WILL TELL HER WHAT TO FEED HER KIDS, IS HE SUGGESTING SOCIALISM FOOD PROGRAMS OR WHAT? LET’S TEABAG HIM!!1!)
But that’s not really my chief problem with Mackey’s piece. After he throws out some pretty standard, superficial reform ideas based on his own experience becoming a billionaire corporate giant (health savings accounts, tort reform, less regulation of the health insurance industry), he rolls up his sleeves for the standard conservative tale of totalitarian nightmare states, specifically Canada and the U.K.
Citizens in these countries are told by government bureaucrats what health-care treatments they are eligible to receive and when they can receive them. All countries with socialized medicine ration health care by forcing their citizens to wait in lines to receive scarce treatments. Although Canada has a population smaller than California, 830,000 Canadians are currently waiting to be admitted to a hospital or to get treatment, according to a report last month in Investor’s Business Daily. In England, the waiting list is 1.8 million.
Look, once and for all, as a Canadian, I recognize the imperfections of my country’s health care system (even though I’ve never personally encountered any of them over my 25 years of habitation there, in both my own care and the care of multiple dying/dead family members who’ve spent way too much time in that system — but whatever, I’ll concede it has problems). But it’s not socialized medicine; it’s a government insurance program that works with private practice physicians and does, in many important ways, offer consumer choice to the richer among us. (And really, I’d rather a government bureaucrat limiting my care than a for-profit bureaucrat making a decision based on money. So I’d actually be fine with fully socialized medicine, but I’m trying to stay within the parameters of the American debate.)
The best part of the Mackey quote above, though, is his citation of Investor’s Business Daily, which has since come under fire from THE SMARTEST MAN IN THE WORLD. You see, the IBD ran an op-ed (since corrected) claiming that Stephen Hawking’s life would be considered useless in scary socialist Britain, to which Hawking, who, uhh, is from there, replied: “I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the N.H.S. [National Health Service] I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.”